California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Democrats Look To Vote on House GOP FY 2012 Budget Plan

This week, Senate Democratic leaders are expected to hold a vote on the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34), which would force Senate Republicans to take a politically risky stance on the Medicare overhaul included in the legislation, CQ Today reports (Friel/Ethridge, CQ Today, 5/23).

The Medicare proposal -- a centerpiece of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget blueprint -- would give beneficiaries fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance (California Healthline, 5/23).

Senators' Stances

On Monday, two Senate Republicans -- Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.) -- said they would vote against the House bill because of the Medicare proposal (Haberkorn, Politico, 5/23). Brown also confirmed his decision in a Politico opinion piece (Dennis, Roll Call, 5/24).

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday also announced that he would oppose the bill because it does not offer enough to cut the deficit (CQ Today, 5/23).

Meanwhile, two other Senate Republicans -- Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) -- who previously indicated their opposition to the Medicare reform proposal, are undecided about their positions on the budget resolution (Politico, 5/23).

Sen. Dick Luger (R-Ind.), however, confirmed on Monday that he would vote for the House bill.

Republicans are in position to upset voters either way they vote. On one hand, many voters have indicated that they would not favor a plan to overhaul Medicare (Roll Call, 5/24). A recent AP-GfK poll found that more than half of U.S. voters believe it is possible to balance the federal budget without cutting Medicare spending (California Healthline, 5/23).

However, the backlash over comments made by GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) -- in which he criticized Ryan's proposal -- illustrate the consequences of bucking the party and upsetting the Republican base.

Democrats Grasp Upper Hand With Medicare Issue

Democrats have been eager to take advantage of the vote, as the party seeks to take command in races against vulnerable GOP incumbents in the 2012 elections, Roll Call reports.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), vice chair of the Senate Democratic Conference Committee, on Monday said the Medicare issue would have "staying power and be a defining issue" next year (Roll Call, 5/24).

According to The Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- who is seeking to regain her leadership role as Speaker -- also has revised her message to voters by shifting the focus from jobs to the contentious GOP Medicare overhaul proposal.

In a recent interview, Pelosi said, "The fight of this Congress and beyond will be to preserve Medicare and not have it abolished," adding, "The three most important issues we should be talking about are Medicare, Medicare and Medicare" (Lillis, The Hill, 5/23).

GOP Leaders To Counter 'Stunt' With Vote on Obama Plan

Senate Republican leaders have called the planned vote on the House budget resolution a "political stunt" and plan to counter the effort with a pair of votes on two other budget proposals, CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 5/23).

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised to force a floor vote on the FY 2012 budget proposal that President Obama unveiled in February.

He also will push for a vote on a budget blueprint introduced by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that does not include a Medicare reform proposal (Roll Call, 5/24).

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